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Replacing university/college courses with online courses
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Clinically Insane
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Aug 8, 2010, 07:24 PM
 
Check out these comments from Bill Gates.

Do you agree? Have any of you tried the MIT OpenCourseWare thing? I *really* like the idea of moving away from "factory education" like we have now, but this would represent a tremendous amount of change, including in K-12, but I highly suspect not excluding the quality and structure of online learning as well and of course the whole economic structure. However, there is certainly a great deal of possibility and potential in private one-on-one tutorship for courses that students would have difficulty learning on their own.

I don't think that kids are generally mature enough to learn independently pre-college/university, but at the college level? Hell yeah!
     
Posting Junkie
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Aug 8, 2010, 09:12 PM
 
Teachers unions will spend millions fighting this.
     
Clinically Insane
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Aug 8, 2010, 09:18 PM
 
Who friggin' cares about the Teachers Unions. Let 'em eat cake.

-t
     
Posting Junkie
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Aug 8, 2010, 09:19 PM
 
I don't know. I just finished up an online course this summer and it wasn't nearly as informative, educational, or involved as a normal course.
     
Posting Junkie
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Aug 8, 2010, 10:17 PM
 
Classes are one of the few places where science/engineering students still have to meet people and interact with other human beings. Can't have that. Clearly, these need to go.

Ticking sound coming from a .pkg package? Don't let the .bom go off! Inspect it first with Pacifist. Macworld - five mice!
     
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Aug 8, 2010, 10:31 PM
 
The quality of an online course depends on the quality of the course. It's easier to get away with crap courses online, but it is possible to do extremely good courses online-the authors simply have to put in the effort.

There was a program underwritten by Annenburg Foundation called "The Mechanical Universe." It was basically a college-level introductory physics course taught via exceptionally well done TV programs, and certain schools used the programs along with in-school testing to provide college credit. That was of course way before Internet-based anything, but the principle holds; if the course is well constructed, it can be taught with flip charts and crayons. No amount of high-tech anything can turn a crap course into a good course.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
Clinically Insane
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Aug 9, 2010, 02:22 AM
 
Originally Posted by imitchellg5 View Post
I don't know. I just finished up an online course this summer and it wasn't nearly as informative, educational, or involved as a normal course.

Do you think this is the way it is now, or the way it always will be?
     
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Aug 9, 2010, 12:37 PM
 
I've worked with lots of faculty, and for the most part they were very interested in online teaching/education because of the availability of education to everyone - in the ideal sense. When it came time to discuss how they could get their course online, they balked. They said that face-to-face education was better, or that they wanted more money, or for the younger faculty, wanted it to count towards tenure. Bottom line: economic compensation of some kind trumped the ideal of spreading education to those who couldn't afford it.

Over the past 5 years, I got my master's degree by attending a physical university and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The interaction by debate with others was what made it great. Meanwhile, my brother got his degree online from an accredited university in another state, and received direct financial compensation for getting his Masters Degree. His comments to me were that it was not really an "experience" so much as a means to an end, and that he didn't learn that much from it. In fact, the experience was so "online" that he purchased part of his masters thesis online and they accepted it. Ug.

While I agree that face-to-face education offers a more complete "experience," employers that are willing to hire equally someone with a bachelor's from an online university, then the online university experience is going to continue to grow and eventually (not in my lifetime) outgrow physical universities, regardless of how much better they are.

Just my opinion...
     
Games Meister
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Aug 9, 2010, 12:38 PM
 
Without any evidence to back up my claim, online courses feel like the college equivalent of the G.E.D. What little I've heard hasn't been positive about the experience.
     
Clinically Insane
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Aug 9, 2010, 12:44 PM
 
Originally Posted by Big-C View Post
I've worked with lots of faculty, and for the most part they were very interested in online teaching/education because of the availability of education to everyone - in the ideal sense. When it came time to discuss how they could get their course online, they balked. They said that face-to-face education was better, or that they wanted more money, or for the younger faculty, wanted it to count towards tenure. Bottom line: economic compensation of some kind trumped the ideal of spreading education to those who couldn't afford it.

Over the past 5 years, I got my master's degree by attending a physical university and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The interaction by debate with others was what made it great. Meanwhile, my brother got his degree online from an accredited university in another state, and received direct financial compensation for getting his Masters Degree. His comments to me were that it was not really an "experience" so much as a means to an end, and that he didn't learn that much from it. In fact, the experience was so "online" that he purchased part of his masters thesis online and they accepted it. Ug.

While I agree that face-to-face education offers a more complete "experience," employers that are willing to hire equally someone with a bachelor's from an online university, then the online university experience is going to continue to grow and eventually (not in my lifetime) outgrow physical universities, regardless of how much better they are.

Just my opinion...

Do you think there is some sort of way to reproduce those positive merits of a physical course online, even if that simply includes getting all students together somehow in a physical or virtual environment? What I'm wondering is if the online course thing hasn't really realized its potential, or whether it is all it can be currently.
     
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Aug 9, 2010, 01:11 PM
 
The common model was this: Let's download Sakai - we have online classes now! Wheee! And it was total crap because nobody with any authority was assigned to develop the idea; they sat around waiting for students to log into these online classes and enjoy them. In reality, rules had to be set up to make them participate, because (generally) students did what was required, and nothing more. The experience was very flat, and since there were enrolled in a physical university anyway, they didn't really want the online experience.

Later, I got to see some really interesting re-imagining of what an online course should be experienced as, including "social networking" elements that actually weren't simple rip-off's of existing systems (2tor.com). That one was based on moodle, but it had a team that developed it into something engaging and well thought out. They also took really good advantage of youtube, with commenting, with committed feedback from the instructors.

Recently, I interviewed for a job where the interviewer made a comment that traditional teachers simply aren't trained for online delivery and that it wouldn't work, that you needed specialized online teachers. While that comment is something of a generalization, it kind of rang true for me (based on my experience).

I guess the answer is that it will "be different" and people who don't like change will resist, while those who want more money (or more access to education) will embrace. Maybe it will work itself out to be that the "technical" portions of your degree can be taken online, while the "social" portions of well-rounded education will be required face-to-face. Sort of a hybrid educational approach...

Hey, I like that idea!
     
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Aug 9, 2010, 01:33 PM
 
I've done online classes at Harvard Extension. You had the option to just watch the course videos, tutorial videos, and take part in a forum (where existing) or also attending live lecture and live tutorial sections. I found the videos helpful for repeat viewing and notes, but I think I got more out of being there for the live sessions. And of course some classes had better forums than others. Some classes didn't have the distance option, and had crappy websites.

Video classes are great when there are short topics clearly explained that don't need interaction. Lynda.com for example.
     
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Aug 9, 2010, 01:52 PM
 
My only experience with online courses has been in training/preparation to be an adjunct instructor in the state's community college system. I had to train in the use of the classroom software environment they used called Blackboard. Good lord, what a miserable mish-mash of open-source modules and whatnot that was. It almost seemed to be designed to discourage learning.
     
Mac Elite
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Aug 9, 2010, 01:54 PM
 
In my experience, online classes have actually made me learn more by making me read the material. I'm a senior at a Georgia Southern University and 3 of my 4000 level major classes this upcoming semester are online. I've taken multiple in the past and I love them. It helps a lot since I work.
     
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Aug 9, 2010, 02:52 PM
 
Originally Posted by imitchellg5 View Post
I don't know. I just finished up an online course this summer and it wasn't nearly as informative, educational, or involved as a normal course.
I've spent the past three years developing & teaching online, and read everything I could get my hands on about it. This after teaching for about 20 years now total.

The vast majority of online programs are dumbed-down versions of the real thing. The pendulum is swinging away from online instruction for this reason, just in time for all the late-adopters (universities I mean). It's supposed to be a gravy train of low overhead, so admins love it.

Teaching, and learning, online can be 10x harder than face-to-face, and I don't think I'm exaggerating. We have 10,000 years of learning the traditional way, and it's hard to unlearn what we're conditioned to do. But beyond that, we cannot program our classroom interaction. Asynchronous forms of "online learning" are touchy, and tough to do well. "Chat Room" teaching, with fixed times and required interaction, work OK but still require everyone to slide down the learning curve.

I'd like to see it done right everywhere, but it isn't, unfortunately. Thankfully, employers and grad schools are starting to ask questions that must be answered.

On the other hand, for continuing ed or nontraditional student ed (what I refer to as "externally-motivated" ed) access to course material online is great. As a replacement for traditional instruction, only in tightly-controlled circumstances.

In other words, it isn't the snake oil everyone is selling (with apologies to Cliff Stoll).
He can be fixed -- you can't.
     
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Aug 9, 2010, 02:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by Big-C View Post
Bottom line: economic compensation of some kind trumped the ideal of spreading education to those who couldn't afford it.
I appreciate your comments on this.

I've heard a lot of this too, from both ends of the spectrum. However, considering that it takes so much time to develop and maintain an online-specific course, and to match those courses to F2F alternatives, and to keep the curriculum fresh... it really is an economic consideration. For those of us seeking tenure, it's a big trade-off. Thankfully, some of us see it as just another part of the job and we're working to keep programs consistent and valuable.

Given the learning curve, though, and the costs of teaching online (especially when students HATE that you ask them to actually read, write and learn) versus face to face, it's a big deal. One that will have to be overcome for many schools before it's cost-effective.
He can be fixed -- you can't.
     
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Aug 9, 2010, 05:33 PM
 
I don't think I made it clear in my comment that you quoted, but I'll mention now that I don't think those faculty were out of line for their request. The amount of work that goes into the online course (as you outlined) is considerable. In the case of the faculty that I was working with (maybe 3 years ago?) they still had to maintain their face-to-face workload.

I think that's why my recent interview resonated so much; doing an online approach to education without putting a lot of work and effort into it really exemplified the "you get what you pay for" idiom. Hiring a faculty dedicated to creating, evaluating and re-tweaking the content & delivery is the only way I can think it would be a viable solution.
     
   
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